Posts Tagged ‘ASUS’

Changing the Computer Name of your Eee PC

October 3, 2009

The Denki-Guy has been using his new Eee PC 900, Linux model for a couple months now.  After a number of configuration changes documented in these pages, I have my little NetBook working nicely.  Yet … there is one thing that was still bugging me.  Using my Windows system, when go to View workgroup computers (from My Network Places), my NetBook is advertised as follows:  “asus-505051062 server (Asus Eee PC) (asus-505051062)”.  I’m not kidding.  Now you know why it has been bugging me.

This long name comes from two places: the Computer Name and the Samba server string.

Computer Name is a generic term for the name used to identify you computer on the network.  In Unix/Linux, host name is used instead of computer name.  The host name of my computer, before I made the change, was “asus-505051062”.  I imagine that  Asus generates the number portion of the name at their factory to give each Eee PC a unique name.  Thank you for the good work Asus but it is now time to select a new host name.  A host name consists of 1 to 15 alphanumeric (A-Z, a-z, 0-9) characters with no spaces or special characters other than hyphen (-).  There is a good article from Microsoft on naming conventions.  It would be good idea to read the “Best practices” section before choosing a name.

The Samba server string is the “asus-505051062 server (Asus Eee PC)” portion of the NetBook advertisement.  You have probably noticed that the host name appears in the server string.  This was done intentionally.  I know this by looking at these lines in the Samba configuration file, smb.conf.

# server string is the equivalent of the NT Description field
   server string = %h server (Asus Eee PC)

Note the %h in the server string.  The percent sign preceeding a single character represents a Samba server variable.  In this particular case %h represents the DNS hostname.  The Server variables are a way to insert machine specific information into the configuration file.  You do not need to include the host name in the server string but you can is you want.  A list of all the server variables can be found in table 6-2 of this document.  I tried to find some information on maximum string length or disallowed characters for the server string but I could not find anything specific.  That said, I think it is best to keep this string brief.

Now that you have all the background, let’s go to work.

Changing the host name (Computer Name)

  1. Press CTRL + ALT + T on the keyboard to bring up a terminal  screen.
  2. Type sudo xedit /etc/hostname  ENTER in the terminal window.  A xedit window will appear.
  3. Delete the old name and enter the new host name you have chosen.  The new host name I chose was “netbook-101"
  4. Click on the xedit Savebutton twice.  Close xedit.
  5. Type exit ENTER in the terminal screen to close the window.

Changing the Samba server string

  1. Press CTRL + ALT + T on the keyboard to bring up a terminal  screen.
  2. Type sudo xedit /etc/samba/smb.conf  ENTER in the terminal window.  A xedit window will appear.
  3. Look for the line that says server string = %h server (Asus Eee PC)
  4. Change the right side of the server string assignment to reflect the new string you chose.  In my case server string = My White Eee PC 900.
  5. Click on the xedit Save button twice.  Close xedit.
  6. Type exit ENTER in the terminal screen to close the window.
  7. Restart the Eee PC.

After your Eee PC reboots, wait a minute or so and then from your Windows PC go to My Network Places -> View workgroup computers.  You should see both the new server string and the machine name on the page.  My Eee PC is now advertised as “My White Eee PC 900 (Netbook-101)”.  Note how Windows did me a favor and capitalized the first letter in Netbook.  I double checked and indeed, the computer name on the Eee PC side is all lower case.

The Denki-Guy

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Folder sharing problems on the Eee PC

September 30, 2009

In my previous blog entry on Sharing Folders with Windows XP Computers, I talk about how easy it is to share files over the network between Windows computers and an Eee PC.  Yet, we all know that few things are as simple as they appear.  Sharing files over the network is no exception.  I would like to share some solutions to problems I have encountered while using the File Manager program on my Eee PC 900 running Xandros Linux.

  • The workgroup name does not appear when I double-click on the Windows Network icon.

Highlight the Windows Networkicon and then refresh the view by clicking the refresh icon, pressing F5 or selecting Refresh from the View menu.

  • When I double-click on the workgroup icon, the only computer I can see on the network is the Eee PC.

Sometimes it will take a couple minutes for all the computers to showup in the workgroup view.  This is not an issue with the Eee PC but simply the way Windows works.  I see the same thing immediately after I reboot one of Windows PCs.

  • I have waited many minutes and one of my Windows PCs still doesn’t show up in the workgroup view.

I found that exiting the File Manager and relaunching generally helps.

  • When I double-click on the icon to one of my Windows computers I get a “No route to host” error.

Most likely, the Windows Firewall is not set to allow file sharing.  Go to the Control Panel and open the Windows Firewall control. Click on the Exceptions tab and check the box for File and Printer Sharing and click OK.

  • When I double-click on the icon to one of my Windows computers, I am asked for a user name and password.

Assuming you have not done anything fancy with shared folder permissions, chances are that you have not enabled folder sharing on the Windows PC.  This is different issue from the one with the Firewall.  Microsoft recommends that file sharing be enabled using the Network Setup Wizard which can be launched from the Control Panel page.

  • When I try to open the Shared Documents folder on my Windows PC from my Eee PC, I am asked for a user name and password.

The Shared Documents folder is intended for sharing documents with other users of the same computer, not other users on the network.  If you want to share a folder that also appears in Shared Documents, go to My Computer and navigate to the folder you want to share.  See these instructions from Microsoft on how to share a folder.

Joining the EEE PC to a Windows Workgroup

September 21, 2009

If your Eee PC is already running Windows, joining a workgroup is a trivial task and so there is no point in writing a blog entry dedicated to it.  I am writing to describe the task of joining a workgroup from a Linux based PC like my EEE PC 900.

The distribution of Linux chosen by ASUS for their Eee PC line is Xandros which was developed with Windows interoperability in mind.  In fact, Xandros has entered into a collaboration agreement with Microsoft to enhance Windows interoperability.  If this is the case, it should be a pice of cake to join a Windows workgroup wouldn’t you think?  Well it is only if your workgroup is called “WORKGROUP”.

 I imagine that some of you are asking why you would need to join a workgroup in the first place.  The reason is to share files, folders or printers over your home network .  In my case, I wanted my Eee PC to use a printer connected to another workstation running Windows XP.  To do so, the Eee PC had to be in the same workgroup as the workstation hosting the printer.  Being in the same workgroup as the other computers on your network is also handy when sharing files

It turns out that the Eee PC defaults to the Workgroup named, “WORKGROUP”.  Other versions of Windows also have the default workgroup name of WORKGROUP but no all.  For example, Windows XP has the default workgroup name of “MSHOME”.  In my case, I had already set the workgroup name on my home network to “DENKIGAI”.  I spent a lot of time looking for a GUI that allowed me to change the Workgroup but I struck out.  In this case, it seems the best way to change the default Windows workgroup name is to edit the associated conf file by hand.

Windows Network support under Linux is provided by a module called SAMBA.  Again, I used xedit to edit the configuration file.  In the terminal window type:  sudo xedit /etc/samba/smb.conf   The smb.conf file will open in a xedit window.  Look for the line that says: workgroup = WORKGROUP and change it to reflect your workgroup name.  In my case I changed this line to workgroup = DENKIGAI.  Click the save button twice to save the changes, exit and reboot.

When your computer comes up the next time, it will appear in the new workgroup.  To explore your Windows network, select the Work tab on the home page (start page if you prefer) and then click on the File Manager icon.  Expand the Windows Networksection and your workgroup name should appear.  Click on your workgroup name to view the computers on your network.  At this point, your network view is equivalent to that of Network Neighborhood in Windows.

All this is pretty cool don’t you think; Sharing printers and files with other Linux and Windows PCs?  The only problem I have noticed is that my Eee PC cannot always find all the workgroup computers.  I haven’t been able to explore the reasons why.  Could it have something to do with packet loss over my wireless network.  I will run some experiments when I have more time. 

The Denki-Guy

Adding Canon printer support to the Eee PC

August 3, 2009

The Denki-Guy’s Eee PC 900 is getting a lot of use while TV viewing as more and more TV programs have companion web sites.  For example, recipes for the dishes presented on a cooking show are often provided in written form over the web.  When it comes time to try a new recipe, I am sometimes tempted to carry the Eee PC into the kitchen to refer to the online receipes.   Fortunately, my practical side points out that I might splash tomato sauce onto the screen or keyboard.  A better solution is to print the recipe and leave the Netbook next to the TV.

For those of you who have read some of my earlier posts, you will know that my Eee PC 900 is running a flavor of Linux, not Windows.  Installing a printer on Eee PC Linux can be simple if the force is with you and the driver is already bundled with the CUPS printing manager.  All you need to do is click on the printers icon under the settings tab and walk through the steps.  Unfortunately, according to the printer driver database on the CUPS site, only a small number of Canon printer drivers are included with CUPS.  The Denki-Guy’s preferred printer, the Canon PIXMA MP750, is not supported by default.

To find a driver for my preferred printer, I turned to the OpenPrinting database to see if a Linux driver exists.  Entering “Canon” as the maker and “PIXMA MP750” as the model, I am told the recommended printer driver is canonpixusip4100.ppd available directly from Canon in Japan.  When you go to the Canon download site, you will see files like bjfilter-pixusip4100-2.50-2.i386.rpm. The dot rpm file extension means that these files are for use with the RPM Package Manager which is used by Red Hat Linux among others.  The Eee PC version of Linux, a customized version of Xandros, requires dot deb files for use with the Debian package management tools like dpkg and apt.  It seems that there is a tool to convert rpm to deb packages so this is an option.  I decided to look for a driver in a deb package first before I try the conversion tool.  Although I have not tried the procedure, this website gives a procedure for converting and installing Canon drivers packaged in rpm format.

There are some Debian packaged drivers for Canon printers available on the Canon-Asia website.  I see drivers for the iP100 series, iP1900 series, iP2600 series,  iP3500 series,  iP4500 series, MP140 series, MP520 series, MP610 series and MX330 series printers.  Go to the support page and search on “debian Printer Driver”.  Unfortunately, I don’t think any of these drivers work with my printer.  Must keep looking.

Searching on “Canon Pixus iP4100 Debian”, I found a site where Takushi Miyoshi from Japan posted Debian packages of various Canon drivers.  Takushi specifically mentions that the iP4100 driver works with the MP750.  BINGO!  The installation instructions on Takushi’s site are concise and to the point.  Follow my instructions below for a verbose version.

From the home page, press Ctrl Alt t to open a terminal window.  Next type the command su and enter the root password in response to the prompt.  The su command will grant the terminal window SuperUser status.   All of the commands below must be executed from the SuperUser terminal.

  1. The first step is to tell the package manager, APT, where it can find the Canon driver and related packages.  This is done via the sources.list file.  To use xedit to update the file, type the command:  xedit /etc/apt/sources.list.  Add the following entry to the bottom of the list:
    deb http://mambo.kuhp.kyoto-u.ac.jp/~takushi/debian ./
    Save the changes and close the window.
  2. Next we need to tell APT to read the package list from the kyoto-u server.  To do this, type the command: apt-get update from the command line.
  3. Now that APT knows where to find the packages we want, it is time to install components.  The command for installing the Canon driver for the Canon Pixus iP4100 driver is: apt-get install libcnbj-2.5 bjfilter-2.5 pstocanonbj

At this point the driver for the Canon printer is present and all we need to do is add it after clicking on the “printers” icon under the “Settings” tab.  In my case, the Canon MP750 is a shared printer connected to Windows XP workstation so I choose the “Network printer” option.  From the “Set Printer Attribites” window, I choose “Windows” as the network type, called the printer “Canon” and clicked the “Browse” button to look for the printer.  A Windows Network heading appeared but no devices could be seen on the network.  I quickly realized that the Eee PC belonged to the Workgroup, “WORKGROUP” whereas the shared printer was located in the workgroup “DENKIGAI”.  I spent a lot of time looking for a GUI that allowed me to change the Workgroup but I struck out.  It is time to edit another config file.

Windows Network support under Linux is provided by a module called SAMBA.  Again, I used xedit to edit the configuration file.  In the terminal window type:  xedit /etc/samba/smb.comf.  Look for the line that says: workgroup = WORKGROUP and change it to workgroup = MY_GROUP_HERE.  In my case I changed this line to workgroup = DENKIGAI.  Save the changes and exit.

The next time through the add printer process, I was able to see the DENKIGAI workgroup and my XP workstation.  Clicking on the workstation icon, the shared printer appears.  Choose the printer and click OK.  On the Set Printer Model page, choose “Canon” as Manufacturer and “PIXUS iP4100 Ver.2.50” as Model.  The final page in the Add Printer Wizard asks if you want to print a test page.  Choose No and then click Finish.  For some reason, if I try to print the test page, the driver is not added.

With much anticipation, I opened the web browser and found a simple page to print.  In an instant the job arrived in the printer queue and the printer started to grind.  Yes, I mean grind.  It seems as if the printer was tring to load paper from auxiliary paper slot, not the paper cassette.  I found the solution on the Canon PIXMA Linux Blog.  It seems as if the printer driver defaults to rear paper tray.  The solution to this problem once again involves changing a conf file.  The target file in this case is the dot ppd file in the /etc/cups/ppd/ directory.  In my case I called my printer Canon so the target file is Canon.ppd.  In the terminal window type:  xedit /etc/cups/ppd/Canon.ppd.  Look for the line that says: *DefaultInputSlot: asf and change it to *DefaultInputSlot: cassette.  Save the changes and exit.

Finally, printing from my Eee PC is working the way I want it to.  I can send pages to the printer from anywhere in the house.  Isn’t Linux fun?

The Denki-Guy

Eee PC 900 still available from Geeks.com

July 30, 2009

In this mornings email, I received another notice from Geeks.com advertising a two day deal on the Eee PC 900 for $139.95 with free shipping.  This is essentially the same deal I received:  the EeePC 900 for $129.95 plus $10.00 for shipping and handling.  I suspect these will sell out quickly.

I know that this is a close out deal but I can’t help but think about the once outrageous goals of the One Laptop per Child organization.  The $100 laptop is indeed in sight.

The Denki-Guy

A teenager reviews my Eee PC 900

July 29, 2009

The Denki-Guy is a family man and fortunately,the entire family is very receptive to new technology.  Over the past weekend, I allowed my 16 year old daughter to take over my new Eee PC 900.  The understanding was that the change of ownership would be temporary and she would share with us, her thoughts about the computer.

The media fervor over the Morgan Stanley research report authored by 15 year old Matthew Robson inspired me to report on my daughter’s thoughts on the Eee PC.  Parents are often accused of not listening to their teenagers.  I think the same thing can be said of technologists.

It has been my experience that engineers devote the most energy to features they want to use themselves.  As a concession to the non-technical crowd, we may consider how our mothers or grandparents my interact with a device.  Any consideration of teenage usage patterns are an afterthought.  As a technologist myself, I think we have our priorities reversed.  A few short years from now, today’s teenagers will be the next generation of young professionals.  Teenage preferences today will define the must-have features of tomorrow.

The first thing my daughter said she liked about the Eee PC 900 is it’s sleek industrial design.  This is not surprising from someone coming from the iPod generation.  To someone from the Denki-Guy’s generation, sleek design is a costly feature that requires a reduced functionality.  To my daughter, a sleek, fashionable industrial design is a basic requirement, not a luxury.  Functionality trade-offs are only accepted when the rational is understood.    For example, the trade-off of keyboard size vs. overall size is an easily understood trade-off.

The second on the list of likes is the small compact size.  The smaller size would allow her to take the Eee PC to more places like the library, school or a coffee shop.  She comments that the keyboard feels a bit small but is is large enough for typing.  Any smaller and she would need to resort to two fingers.  I asked if she would prefer a larger keyboard and she said no, she prefers the smaller size.  She doesn’t have any particular comments regarding the screen.  It does the job.

Another factor in the plus column is the price.  When I told my daughter how much I paid for my Eee PC 900 ($130 + shipping), she immediately asked if that was a close-out price (which it was).  She felt that a good price point for a teenage Netbook user would be about the same as that for a higher end cellphone or iPod, around $250.  Her logic is that if parents are willing to buy their teenagers a cool cellphone or iPod, they are unlikely to balk at buying a netbook for about the same price.  If the PC is priced any higher that that, it becomes too precious to to be portable.  She would be afraid to take it with her because of the possibility of loss, theft or accidental damage.  BTW, newer version 9 inch Eee PCs are available online in the $200 to $250 price range.

As for the negatives, the first comment was about the appearance of the desktop.  The words my daughter used to describe it were “Old School”.  She has come to expect slicker user interfaces like the iPhone, SideKick or Windows Vista.  She also felt there were too many mystery icons in the tool tray.  The Smiley face in particular annoyed her.  Another negative was the heat.  The Eee PC 900 gets quite warm during operation. My daughter comments that you definitely would not want to hold this computer on your lap, during the summer.  On the other hand, the warmth may be nice during the winter.  When I pointed out that the energy producing the heat came from the battery, she added that the battery life was too short and energy should not be wasted on heat.

The above negatives were relatively minor and would not affect my daughters desire to use the Eee PC 900.  There were two issues that were more significant:

  1. The battery life is too short to allow for extended usage.  Based on my daughter’s usage pattern, the battery was good for about 2 hours of constant usage.  Since portability is important, my daughter does not want to carry a power adapter around.  This implies that the battery needs to last all day.  Practically speaking, the computer will not be used heavily for eight hours straight.  I believe that four hours should be the design goal.
  2. The other significant issue for my daughter was the lack of iTunes support.  To the younger generation, an iPod is a must-have device much like the record player was to out parents.  The lack of iTunes support means that the owner of an Eee PC with Linux must have access to another computer running the Mac OS X or Windows.  The problem in this case is that Apple has never released a Linux version of the iTunes application.  Of course one could always spend the extra money and buy a Windows version of the Eee PC

Overall, my teenage daughter liked the Eee PC 900 and was reluctant to return it when I asked for it back.  I really think that ASUS has a real hit with the Eee PC series.

The Denki-guy

Why couldn’t it just work?

July 18, 2009

Fedex dropped off a new toy a couple days ago, a new Netbook computer.  The purchase was a bit impulsive but the Netbook was offered for a price I couldn’t refuse, $130 from Geeks.com.  The Netbook I bought was an ASUS Eee PC 900.  This is last year’s model and the processor is a bit weak but for 130 bucks, who cares?

My first impression of the Eee PC 900 was good.  The unit is lightweight and compact enclosed in an attractive clam-shell case.  Even though the screen is mere nine inches across; it is bright, sharp and easy to read.  The keyboard is a bit small, especially for my big fingers but, it is understood that this tradeoff was necessary to preserve the compact form factor.

After charging the battery, I powered up the Eee PC for the first time.  The first run setup was quite simple and soon I was presented with the desktop.  The last step was to setup the wireless connection.  A balloon message appeared informing me that wireless access points have been detected.  Clicking on the balloon, I was able to choose my access point and enter the passkey.  I clicked OK and waited for the Eee PC to connect.  I double checked the settings and tried again and again.  Rats, it didn’t work.  It was a Linux moment.

Up to now, all of the PCs connected to my wireless network were running a flavor of Windows.  The Eee PC that would not connect was running a flavor of Linux.  After many hours of study, I found the documentation that explained the configuration file for WPA security.  After a few more hours of experimentation, I finally got the Eee PC to connect to my access point.  Here lies the primary difference between Linux and Windows:  Linux can be made to work if you know what you are doing;  Windows just works.

Now in all fairness, I am running WPA2-PSK security on my wireless network.  WPA2 is one of the newer, more secure protocols and I have run into some older wireless interfaces that do not support it.  That said, the Linux distribution on my Eee PC includes the wpa_supplicant which properly supports WPA2-PSK but, the GUI that populates the conf file does not.  With holes like this, I do not expect to see Linux make many inroads into the consumer PC market.

For those who are interested, I will document my wpa_supplicant.conf file in my following blog post.

The Denki-Guy